And onto the train, for a change.
Fine night in Middlemarch. Camping in New Zealand is, well, as everything else in New Zealand. The camp had a distinct railway feel about it, as you can see from the picture below, the kitchen is just a converted coach and there are other bits of railwayana to complete the scene.
The weather was not the best when I woke up, it was kind of heavy drizzle, but, as I had more or less four hours before the train left Pukerangi and only 12.5 miles to get there, I decided to take it easy. I eventually got up and packed and by 9:30 I was out of the camp and into the local caffe (Quench). I had a food, a superb flat white and a good conversation with the owner about all sort of things to do with trains, Middlemarch, the business and life in Central Otago.
The conversation was so enticing that I got myself a bit worried about making it to the train so round about 10 I took some pictures of the station and then left for Pukerangi.
The train to Dunedin is a very scenic one, more on that later, but it does not leave from Middlemarch every day. It does so only two days a week, while the rest of the time only makes it to Pukerangi, a station in the middle of nowhere 12.5 miles south of Middlemarch.
I don’t know the reason for this but I assume it’s because the vast majority of the travellers go on the train ride for the train ride, rather than to get to from A to B, and the stretch from Dunedin to Pukerangi is the most scenic one, while the bit between there and Middlemarch is just like any other rail stretch, a straight set of rails into farmland.
I had ridden just a bit more than 8 of the 12.5 miles when I saw in the distance a white van coming in the opposite direction. As I approached I realised it was Simon and Ann who I met first in Clyde and then again yesterday on the trail.
They had got to Pukerangi and, knowing I was on the way there, they decided to come back and give me a lift to spare me the two murder hills that were to be found in the last 4 miles. I had the option of declining the offer, giving them the bags, or just jump in lock stock and barrel. I went for option three, commencing the non bicycle part of the trip just that little earlier.
Once we got there we had just time to have a coffee and the train was there. After having loaded the bike and bags, paid the quite astronomical price ($69 one way, $89 return), it was sit back and wait to be dazzled by the views.
There are many amazing facts and figures about the rail link (here), but I think the pictures are the best contribution I can make.
I went out on the observation platform a couple of times venturing the rather cold breeze but the result was to take some quite amazing shots.
After a while I had had enough of the cold and I decided to go in where I joined the much wiser Simon and Ann. They were doing the round trip and staying in Middlemarch tonight doing a bit more riding onto the trail tomorrow.
We parted at Dunedin station with the promise that I’d go and see them when I’m in the UK next. They were very kind offering me a lift and a warm drink in a very cold morning. I do admire them as they have managed to dig themselves out of the rut that modern living can be, and are now living a simpler and freer life.
Towards the end of the journey I went out another time as I was expecting to see the Wingatui bridge, the largest wrought iron structure of the southern hemisphere. I was lucky and I timed just right and the result is below as well as in the head picture.
After we got to Dunedin I took the bike for a service, as I have decided to anticipate my Dunedin pause to tomorrow. I’m staying in a private room in an hostel tonight, rather posh for my standards but I thought that it was warranted as campings in cities are often in the outskirts and I wanted to have easy access to the town centre.
I will go around tomorrow seeing what there is to be seen, but the first impression of the city is: “I could live here”.